With age, it’s natural for certain body parts to not work as well as they used to. The joints—hips, knees, shoulders—can all suffer wear and tear over time. The good news is joint replacement surgery has advanced so much that these procedures are not only incredibly safe but also effective.
“I love orthopedic surgery. It's a passion of mine. It's something that gets me up in the morning and excited to go to work. And, this is where my wife's family is from, so this is a second home for me. We've been looking for a little while for a chance to get back here, and we’re excited to be here.”
Dr. Taylor shares what community members might want to know about having a total joint replacement, including what the surgery (and post-surgery) involves and expected recovery time.
The Mechanics of Surgery
A total joint replacement involves replacing both sides of the joint with metal and plastic components. Surgeons remove damaged cartilage, so it no longer causes the pain and swelling that accompanies normal, everyday movements—and which often keeps individuals from doing all they want to do.
The plastic components used in the replacement have evolved greatly over the last 20 years.
“The plastic is extremely strong and doesn't wear over time. You know, total joint replacements done in the last 20, 30, 40 years were using an older plastic and could actually wear out. The plastic we're using nowadays wears out at less than 10% of what it used to,” explains Dr. Taylor.
What Does Recovery Look Like?
Recovery is slightly unique for each joint (shoulders, hips, knees), but Dr. Taylor says that most patients are about 75% recovered in two months’ time and 90% in three months. Patients will also continue to improve for up to a year post-surgery. Physical therapy is a key part of the recovery process. It’s critical that patients are consistent with their PT exercises, so recovery is optimized.
“If we don't put in the time and effort to get the range of motion back, well, you lose range of motion and that can really debilitate and prevent the excellent things we wanted to achieve,” cautions Dr. Taylor. “That being said, some of it can be done at home. It's not like we want you to be in therapy for a year or anything like that. We do the therapy until you're progressing and able to do it on your own. Then it's activities of everyday life—walking, getting up, doing those types of things are the therapy for the future.”
Looking Towards a Pain-Free Future
It’s understandable for individuals to be on the fence about proceeding with a total joint replacement, but Dr. Taylor encourages anyone who is thinking about it to have a conversation to voice any concerns. “No one is going to push you into anything. But, if you're thinking about it and wondering what it would be like, come on in and let's talk about some options.”
At the end of the day, it can be a truly life-changing procedure. “I love seeing patients get back to their life,” he shares. “Joint pain can be so debilitating. It can really prevent people from doing the things they want to do, especially in these golden years where they've worked their entire life to save up to do the things they want to do and see. Witnessing them not able to do that because of pain is so heartbreaking. I love when they're able to get back to their life and do those things they had planned on.”
To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Dr. Mathew Taylor, orthopedic surgeon at Pullman Regional Hospital, click here.